ABOVE: U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) celebrates
Various Events Showcase and Commemorate the Newly Minted Juneteenth Federal Holiday
Wow…we at the Forward Times hope each of you enjoyed the awesome weekend of Juneteenth celebrations that took place here in the great city of Houston!
Juneteenth originated in Texas, and Houston has always commemorated the holiday, well before President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law last year.
The state of Texas was the first state in the United States to make Juneteenth an official paid holiday in 1980, thanks to the efforts of former State Representative Al Edwards and his H.B. 1016 legislation.
U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) was the first Congressional leader to introduce the Federal legislation, H.R. 1320, that established the National Federal Holiday of Juneteenth.
As part of this year’s Juneteenth celebrations, Congresswoman Jackson Lee and many other elected officials, community leaders, community-based organizations held various events to commemorate the historic holiday.
Congresswoman Jackson Lee held a special community-wide prayer service on Juneteenth Sunday morning. The prayer service was also attended by Ramon Manning, Board Chairman for Emancipation Park Conservancy, elected officials, parishioners, community residents, as well as Pastor Lou McElroy & First Lady Jacqueline McElroy of the historic Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, founded in 1866.
The prayer service featured a scripture reading and remarks from Texas gubernatorial candidate and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Houston City Councilmember Edward Pollard; remarks from U.S. Health and Human Services Regional Director Sima Ladjevardian, representing the Biden Administration; historian Naomi Carrier telling the story of Juneteenth; a Juneteenth presentation from the Texas Southern University Debate Team; remarks from Jacqueline Bostic, Vice President of the Emancipation Park Conservancy and Great Granddaughter of John Henry “Jack” Yates; a musical selection by International Opera Star Kenn Hicks and by Joan Hubert; a special Praise Dance performance by Stacy J and Company; and Juneteenth prayer and message from Pastor Lou McElroy.
The Emancipation Park Conservancy hosted a summer celebration to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Emancipation Park and to honor Juneteenth.
On Friday, June 17th, they held an Emancipation Park Rededication Celebration and Rededication Ceremony, and then on Saturday, June 18th and Sunday, June 19th they held activities that featured local vendors, community resources, interactive kid zones. The most highly anticipated events happened each day, including on Juneteenth Sunday, as local artists Keeshea Pratt Band featuring Jewel Brown, James Boogaloo Bolden, and Soultre featuring Kollett performed in the afternoon. The evenings concluded with musical performances by dynamic gospel and R&B artists, including The Isley Brothers, Kool & The Gang, Sheila E., Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Earnest Pugh, Pastor Mike Jr., Zacardi Cortez, and Monica Lisa Stevenson. Comedian Billy Sorrells, KTSU’s Donna Franklin and The Vibe’s Michele McKnight hosted the festivities. The Emancipation Park 150th Anniversary Juneteenth celebration was free and open to the public, and well-organized, as tickets were required for entry. On Monday, June 20th, there was a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Emancipation Avenue in the morning, and a Juneteenth Emancipation Celebration the rest of the day. All events took place at Emancipation Park, located at 3018 Emancipation Avenue—on the corner of Elgin and Emancipation Avenue (formerly Dowling Avenue).
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner hosted the 9th annual Juneteenth Parade, held in Acres Homes.
This Juneteenth Parade began at Acres Homes Multi-Service Center and ended at Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
The following day, Mayor Turner hosted a Juneteenth Breakfast at the Texas Southern University–Student Life Center for African American elected officials serving in the Greater Houston area, from the local, county, state, and federal level.
Also taking place in Acres Homes, the Acres Home Chamber for Business and Economic Development hosted a Juneteenth Acres Homes Cultural Arts Festival. This festival was an opportunity to provide cultural engagement and education through various forms of interaction including live dance performances, live music performances, spoken word performances, a curated market of local vendors, general business booths for companies looking to engage with community members, as well as informational booths designed to inform festival goers of the history of Acres Homes and how this community has contributed to the cultural history of the city of Houston.
The Missouri City Juneteenth Celebration Foundation hosted its 20th year of celebrating Juneteenth in Missouri City, Texas, which included the Juneteenth Community Service Gala, Annual Family Night Out, 20th Annual One Mile of Smiles Parade, and the 20th Annual Concert in the Park. Attendees at the Juneteenth Community Service Gala received a powerful and challenging keynote address from journalist, columnist, commentator, and Houstonian Roland Martin, who challenged attendees to always focus on including an economic focus and emphasis when commemorating Juneteenth.
Texas Southern University (TSU) marked Juneteenth with multiple celebrations and events over a two-week period—both on campus and in the Greater Houston area.
The Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs commemorated Juneteenth by launching the TSU Juneteenth Statewide Calendar and Website, which serves as a resource for Juneteenth events around the state of Texas. TSU also held a Juneteenth HBCU Alliance Golf Tournament, sponsored by TSU and Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) national alumni associations, at Hermann Park Golf Course; the TSU National Alumni Association, the PVAMU National Alumni Association, and the Rice University Association of Rice Alumni celebrated Juneteenth with three panels exploring ideas and questions central to the holiday; the TSU Career Center partnered with the PVAMU Career Center, as well as the TSU and PVAMU national alumni associations, to host a Juneteenth HBCU Virtual Career; and a Juneteenth Holiday Social was hosted by the Black Professional Alliance and HBCU alumni.
The Houston First Corporation partnered with Mayor Turner and the City of Houston, Miller Theatre Advisory Board, KTSU 90.9 FM, and presenting sponsor, Wells Fargo to celebrate Juneteenth by hosting “Juneteenth: Journey to Freedom” on Juneteenth Sunday evening at Miller Outdoor Theatre with a spectacular program featuring more than 250 well-known local artists. These talented performers came together to illustrate the story of African Americans’ journey to freedom through dance, song, and the spoken word. The celebration featured moving tribute to the late State Representative Al Edwards, “Mr. Juneteenth,” as well as thanks to Congresswoman Jackson Lee and Senator John Cornyn for their key bi-partisan roles in making Juneteenth both a state and federal holiday. The captivating evening of performances unfolded with five memorable and educational acts with performers including Brian Courtney Wilson, Kathy Taylor, Gene Moore, NaKitta Clegg Foxx, and V. Michael McKay.
Other events that took place in Houston during Juneteenth Weekend included:
- Buffalo National Soldiers Museum—On Friday and Saturday, June 17th and June 18th, the museum featured a 40-foot long, traveling, interactive exhibit that paid tribute to military women, and offered live art and tours, music, food trucks, and more
- Children’s Museum of Houston—The museum hosted several activities on Saturday morning, June 18th, that embraced the spirit of Africa, including storytime, poetry, performances and a meet and greet with Black Panther, the King of Wakanda
- African American Library at the Gregory School—On Saturday and Monday, June 18th and June 20th, the museum offered tours through Houston’s Third, Fourth, and Fifth Ward neighborhoods, showcasing the cultural assets that exist in each area
The push to make Juneteenth a national holiday picked up steam after the tragic death of George Floyd and after Ms. Opal Lee (referred to as the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’) showed up at the U.S. Capitol in 2020 with 1.6 million petitions demanding that Juneteenth become a federal holiday. Jackson Lee greeted Ms. Lee at the capitol and took those petitions requesting that Juneteenth become a national holiday and was inspired to push the legislation forward, primarily because of the dedication and persistence of Ms. Lee, and because of former State Rep. Al Edwards who led the charge to make Juneteenth a state holiday in Texas.
Juneteenth is one of the oldest and most widely known recognized African American holidays in this country, commemorating the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. to the 200,000 enslaved people of African descent in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865—Juneteenth.